South Sudan Defence Forces
During the civil war, armed groups proliferated across South Sudan. Many of them were used as proxies by the National Islamic Front (NIF) government, the precursor to the National Congress Party, to fight against the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) 'rebel' group. This strategy was predominantly used after the 1991 split in the SPLA, which led to multiple intra-Southern conflicts that fed into the overall 'North-South' war. Khartoum successfully exploited ethnic and political divisions, buying loyalty with material goods, arms and ammunition, leading to the formation of dozens of Southern militia groups as part of a successful strategy of 'divide and rule'.
In 1997, seven armed groups signed the Khartoum Peace Agreement
with the NIF, thereby forming the largely symbolic South Sudan Defence Force (SSDF) umbrella of government-backed armed militias. Other groups continued to operate outside of the umbrella. As part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement
(CPA) signed in 2005, all of these, known as Other Armed Groups (OAGs), were outlawed: they had either to join the SPLA or the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), or return to civilian life. The Juba Declaration followed in January 2006, which led to more than 30,000 former militia members joining the SPLA. An additional 34,000 joined the Southern police, wildlife, and prison services. Some remained in the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) camp, as part of a bidding war for loyalty between the SAF and the SPLA.
Since the Juba Declaration, integration into the SPLA has been fraught with logistical difficulties and tensions between the former enemies, leading to a bloated force, as well as defections and command and control problems.
Relevant Tables, Maps, and Summaries
Relevant HSBA Publications